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Detailed Record


Norman Bethune Collection

Norman Bethune Collection

Physical Description

55 cm of textual records and photographs



Biographical Sketch / Administrative History

Born in Gravenhurst, Ontario, in 1890, Norman Bethune received his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1916, and went on to do post-graduate studies in London and Edinburgh in the early 1920s. Diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1926, his eventual recovery inspired his subsequent interest in thoracic medicine, and he moved to Montreal to work as an assistant to Dr. Edward Archibald of the Royal Victoria Hospital, a world authority on tuberculosis. During the next few years, Bethune became famous for his treatment of TB patients at the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur. He also invented or redesigned 12 surgical instruments. Increasingly disillusioned with the general state of medical practice, Bethune advocated for changes to the health care system. In 1936, he volunteered to help the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, where he organized the first mobile blood-transfusion unit. Two years later he went to China to help the Chinese communist Red Army, forming the first mobile medical unit. He died of blood poisoning while with the Chinese Eight Route Army, in November 1939

Scope and Content

The collection contains correspondence to and from Norman Bethune (including copies of many letters between him and his former wife Frances Penny); case records (mostly cases of pulmonary tuberculosis) from the Royal Victoria Hospital, with extensive holograph notes by Bethune; and material about Bethune: newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, slides and negatives, writings about his work in Montreal, Spain and China, an original play about his life, a documentary script, and various memorabilia (e.g. commemorative stamps, brochures, pamphlets, buttons and pins, posters, and fliers).

Finding Aids

Partial inventory list available online.

Custodial History

This collection has been accumulated over time and is the result of various donations made to the Osler Library.


The documents are mainly in English, with some in Chinese

Source of Supplied Title Proper

Title based on the documents in the collection.

Retrieval Number




Bethune, Norman